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The Most Important Commencement Speeches in 2018: Hamdi Ulukaya at Wharton MBA Graduation

The Greatest Commencement Speeches in History is a weekly column that compiles the most memorable speeches in history with the goal to emphasize on the power of public speaking, to illustrate its importance, impact, and necessity to master.

Today we keep our focus on the commencement address which the famous entrepreneur, founder, chairman, and CEO of Greek yogurt company Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya gave at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in front of the MBA 2018 graduates. Here are the most important outtakes:

“It’s great that you are a Wharton MBA. But please, don’t act like it. […] What they mean is don’t let it be a burden on you. Don’t let it get in the way of seeing people as people and all they have to offer you, regardless of their title or position . […] If you want to fly high, in business or in life, you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground, and stay rooted to see what matters the most.

To be honest, when I was younger I didn’t have a high opinion of business. I was raised as a son of a farmer, spending time with shepherds, caring for animals up in the mountain. To me people who succeed in business were on glass towers, looking down on people, making decisions that hurt families. It took me a long time to realize that business doesn’t have to be a dirty field. You can put all of your passion into doing good.

“You know, in business you are learning about ROI, Return on Investment. You should also know about ROK – Return on Kindness.”

“With Return on Kindness, you can immediately see results. That’s something I learned about business in Upstate New York, in America.”

“As the poet Rumi, who lived in Turkey, said: “When you start walking the way, the way appears.”

“I knew the promise of what we started, but I questioned myself. Many times. I got to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was able to do it. I’d never met anyone who had done this before.”

“I wanted the people of my community to know that they deserve the best. […] In five years we went from five people to 2000 people. We went from zero sales to more than a billion dollars in sales. We went from nowhere to the top brand of America.

“If you believe in the people you work with and listen to them, and learn from them, and give them a reason to believe in you, everything is possible.”

“Acknowledging the wisdom and experience of a forklift operator or security guard with 30 years on the job doesn’t diminish your own experience. Acknowledging the sacrifice of others that enabled you to be in this position does not diminish the sacrifices you made on your own.”

“Be the kind of person, be the kind of leader that other people want to sacrifice for.  […] Ask others for advice, no matter their jobs. And listen, really listen, to their answers.”

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